Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Tauriel and Kili Problem

"They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25" -Christopher Tolkien

In this quote Christopher Tolkien was speaking of the original three films.  While I see what he means, I disagree a bit; I am certainly thankful for the original movies because through them I--and many others--came to the books and there were able to grasp the philosophical content and truly come to appreciate the books.  


However, I think this quote of Christopher Tolkien's is more applicable to the recent Hobbit movies in a few respects.

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Yes I understand the Hobbit movies--like the originals did for me--have spurred others into reading the books.  I personally have multiple friends who have said that they enjoyed the Hobbit movies and then started reading the books.   However, these same friends are the people who complain that the books are too hard and very dry.  

I think this is because the Hobbit movies are geared towards either younger people or just a different audience entirely than the books.  This means that the Hobbit movies are not likely to attract people who in the long run will have a good experience with the books.  This is unlike the original movies which had the same tone at least as the books so that watchers turned readers would not be completely shocked when they made the switch.  This does fulfill Christopher Tolkien's fear that no one will grasp the themes and philosophical content of the books because it will be substituted with the movies (since the books are "too hard").  It is for that reason that I slightly disagree with Professor Tolkien in that first quote which was intended for the original films, but find it highly applicable for the Hobbit films.

This is the common fan base for The Hobbit.I wonder how many of these
kids have gone back to read the booksand gotten the themes out of there.
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Back to the Hobbit.  I understand that it is not always practical or effective to adapt a book page by page.  I get that.  Certainly that did not happen with The Lord of the Rings, a 1000+ page book compacted into a film a little over 9 hours.  But one thing I absolutely insist on in regards to book-film adaptations is that the film retains the tone and themes of the book.

What are the tone and theme of the Hobbit you ask?  First of all, the tone is very light-hearted, almost comical (a children's book, remember).  
“Go back?" he thought. "No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!" So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.” (The Hobbit 1937)
Notice the key words that are clearly supposed to be whimsical and childlike: "go sideways"; "trotted"; "patter and a pitter", etc.  Compare this to scenes from the Hobbit which are quite frightening for young children.  This is evidenced by the fact that the movie is rated PG-13, and R for the extended edition.



As for the themes, the films practically trampled them in favor of long battle sequences and as much blood and gore as possible.  In the books, importance is placed on Bilbo's dynamism, particularly his change between being a naive Hobbit into a brave and merciful one.  One of these days I should count up the minutes spent with Bilbo learning about his character and compare it to the minutes spent on other things in the films which are not nearly as important--one large instance we will get to in a bit.

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My point is that the Hobbit books and movies do not have the same themes or tone, and for that reason, I consider the films an unsuccessful adaptation. Certain people might argue that they are interesting to watch on their own, but it still frustrates me that such a beautiful book can be completely sterilized of any inner meaning and just written off as a "fun movie" by so many.  I don't think the fantasy adventure alone was why the Hobbit book was so popular in the first place; it was a combination of the thematic and enchanting tone.

If your goal is to see a fun movie, go watch something else; but leave this story bound to it's themes.  Sometimes with all the changes made to the story I get the feeling that the filmmakers didn't really like the Hobbit book (so they felt the need to change everything) but they kept just a couple things in order to draw in audiences.  It's like book heresy--keeping the things you like but expelling those you find uncomfortable and inconvenient to the point where it's not really the same story anymore.

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The loss of the theme and tone of the story is embodied by two characters which make me feel sick when they come on screen.  I really don't mean this as an attack on the actors at all, but a critique of their portrayal in the film.  The two characters are:


This is the very embodiment of the book heresy that went on through the adaptation.  First off, this "Kili" who wears dark armor and always looks serious, who is wounded and doesn't even get to the mountain, who makes suggestive jokes in the prisons of the woodland king (more proof this does not capture the childlike tone of the books!) is inimical to the young and untried dwarf who loses the ponies, almost falls into the river in Mirkwood, and wears a blue hood.

"But Nimrodel," some might say, "No one wants to watch a movie about a boring dwarf like the one described in the books!"

And I would say this to you.  The Hobbit has never been out of print.  It is one of the most popular books of our era with fans all over the world.  Somehow, someway, there have been a slew of people who have been willing to read the book even with "a boring dwarf".  Maybe you don't want to read them, but that brings me back to my other point that these films are geared toward the complete wrong audience.  Many film watchers will not end up reading the books, which does end up reducing the story to an action film.

The heresy: the character of Kili is retained, but his fundamental purpose and demeanor is completely changed both externally in appearance and internally in action and words.

And now Tauriel.  Tauriel, Tauriel, Tauriel.

My reaction when Tauriel is on the screen.

Does Tauriel fit the tone of the story?  No, this tale for small children certainly does not involve an impromptu/poorly fleshed-out love story that ends in a tragic death.  Does the Tauriel story line help portray the themes of the story?  No, if anything she detracts from the themes of Bilbo's change and creates a whole new unnecessary drama.

"But Nimrodel," some would say, "We need a character for young girls to look up to, someone they can relate to.  Otherwise they won't like the story!"

False!  I am a fairly young girl (at least I'm pretty sure I am the Tauriel target audience) and I absolutely despise the entire concept.  I love The Lord of the Rings films, and no, Arwen and Eowyn are not my favorite characters.  Aragorn and Sam are.  You film makers sure underestimate what the people want and I know that because (again) the Hobbit books are crazy successful even without this terrible romance element.

Aside from the fact that we don't need Tauriel, it is very upsetting to see her there because it is just proof that the film makers don't care that much about the original tale, they just want to do whatever they can to please their audience and get the biggest box office income they can.  This complete disregard of Tolkien's hard work in favor of fame and money is what Christopher Tolkien meant by "evisceration" and it makes me ill.

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To sum up this rant, the Hobbit films failed at grasping the tone and theme of the story and therefore I consider them to be poor adaptations.  I agree with Christopher Tolkien when he says that these films have reduced the original works into shallow, "anything-to-please-the-audience" films with complete disregard to Tolkien's work.  The two strongest points of complete heresy and disregard are embodied in Tauriel and Kili.

Oh, and if you're wondering, yes--I am scarred for life from this movie.  It has shown me that adaptations can go terribly, terribly wrong, and I suppose that is why I am so against a Silmarillion movie.  I couldn't bear to watch my favorite story of all time (and something even nearer and dearer to the Tolkiens' hearts) be "eviscerated" and ruined like the Hobbit has been for me.

(Note: My profile has gotten a bit scrambled up so not all the blogs I follow are being displayed.  Sorry to those of you whose blogs are not being shown, I'll try to fix the problem ASAP!)

18 comments:

  1. Confession: I enjoy watching The Hobbit movies. If I ignore their correlation to LotR and the Hobbit book, I can really enjoy them. Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, and the other original cast members, the music, and the scenery: gahhhh.

    However.

    I agree with this very much. I think AUJ was targeted partially to the older, more serious audience of LotR-fans, and partially to younger kids. It almost worked.

    But then the last two mainly catered to an *ahem* ignorant audience. You know, the "masses" who hadn't read LotR. xD (That sounds really snobbish, haha)

    And the Tauriel/Kili romance was ridiculous, unrealistic, and very unsatisfying, considering that Tauriel never got Legolas OR Kili. Poor thing. ;)

    So yeah, good job on this post; I share many similar opinions. :D

    Ooh, one question: which movie do you think followed the book the best?

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    1. I can see why you like them--I'll confess, the first few shots of the Shire with the theme playing in the background do cause me to fangirl a wee bit as well :)

      The Tauriel thing DID seem kind of rushed...like a last minute addition or something. Personally, I just don't think it meshed.

      Thanks!

      Hmm, I guess I would go with an Unexpected Journey. The Desolation of Smaug had a lot of added stuff with Legolas and Tauriel, and the Battle of the Five Armies was pretty much fanfiction--not really like the book at all but with the same characters and settings.

      Ooh, I hope I wasn't too harsh in this post for people who DID like the Hobbit movies... :/

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    2. I agree that AUJ was the most sensitive adaption. I just really liked tBoFA because I got all emotional about it and it was the laaaast Peter Jackson-Tolkien movie. :( Oh, and The Last Goodbye makes me cry. :')

      Oh no, don't worry about that! I did NOT feel personally attacked or anything as a fan of the movies. :) It's not like you said, "Anyone who likes these movies clearly hasn't read The Hobbit". :D

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    3. Ah, I can see that--all the suspense builds up until that very movie so it makes sense it is the most emotional...the Last Goodbye was my favorite part!

      Oh good! Whenever I write posts critiquing stuff I NEVER intend it for the people who enjoyed what I did not but as criticism for the makers of whatever it was so that mistakes are not made again (not that PJ and co. are reading my blog or anything). I'm glad you didn't take it personally because that was definitely NOT my intention.

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  2. Amen!
    I was just talking about this recently. Normally I can forgive a book to movie adaptation if it sticks to the spirit/theme/tone of the book but The Hobbit, as you said, did not.
    I liked An Unexpected Journey more than the others as I felt it kept a little closer to the spirit of the book... especially at the beginning.
    Anyways.... thank you for this post! You articulated everything I feel about those movies.

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    1. Exactly! AUJ definitely had more of a whimsical feel especially with the dish cleaning scene and the trolls.
      Yay, I'm glad we're on the same page :)

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  3. One can never be too harsh on the Peter Jackson adaptations of either LOTR or The Hobbit, for my tastes.

    I definitely have more dislike for the LOTR versions. I didn't think Jackson really captured the spirit of the books especially in the characterization. I thought he sucked all the nobility and heroism out of most of the characters. So I just couldn't finish the trilogy, stopped after watching Two Towers.

    As for the three Hobbit films, well, I wasn't enamored of them but I wasn't really upset about them either. Probably because I went into watching them knowing they'd really have no relation to the story at all aside from the names of the characters and the general outline of the plot. So I wasn't terribly disappointed. Although I did roll my eyes a lot during many of the scenes.

    Anyway, the best adaptation of The Hobbit is still the 1977 Rankin Bass version.

    First time commenter here. Found your blog, I think, through Lois' blog.

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    1. I definitely see where you are coming from--the characters are really different in the movies. Aragorn, for example was given flaws that were otherwise absent in the books, such as his reluctance to become the king. I suppose the film makers did this to make him more relatable, but I don't think it was wholly necessary since LOTR is meant to be a legend (and real heroes in legends are rarely presented with major flaws).

      I guess what I'm saying is that I understand what you mean. Buuut..the original LOTR movies will always have a special place in my heart because they were my first introduction to the world of Middle-earth and through them I came to the books.

      I made the mistake of getting my hopes up for the Hobbit movies so I was terribly disappointed.

      Still haven't seen that one--I feel incomplete.

      Fantastic! Thanks for stopping over--hope to hear from you sometime again!

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  4. Ok. While I agree that they didn't keep the childlike simplicity of the book, I don't agree on some other points.

    Kili. Yes they changed his hair color and he makes suggestive jokes and they made him stay behind and he died protecting Tauriel, but that was really all they changed about him. In my opinion, he NEVER looks serious! Well except for when he is furious with his uncle or is fighting. And as for him being dark, they needed to do that to distinguish him from Fili also, do you know how awful Aiden Turner would have looked in blond hair? He is Black Irish and you DON'T put them in blond wigs! In fact, I'm pretty sure they actually tried him in a blond wig and it was too awful for words.

    So I don't agree with you on the Kili part. The way I see it, they took Tolkien's Kili and merely have an Irish actor playing him which speaks for itself!

    As for Tauriel, I do and don't agree with you. While I love the character, I don't think it very likely that Mirkwood would have a female Captain of the Guard (my older sister and I have agreed to disagree on this point). As my mom said, as soon a they plugged Legolas in (which I have NOOOOOOO problem with, more on that later), they need someone for Legolas to interact with. So they had to add Tauriel. I still kind of wish that they had add a male elf, not a female, but whatever. I do like how Jackson made the relationship between Tauriel and Legolas able to be taken either romantically or platonically. The (I think producers) insisted that he make it romantic, but it can be taken either way and I always take it platonically.

    As for other girls not watching it, there are a LOT of girls who wouldn't watch the movie if Tauriel wasn't in it. They are the same girls who won't read the book because "it doesn't have any girls!" We, the ones who wouldn't mind there being no girls, are rather few and far between. Most girls your age (except the die-hard Tolkien-ites) wouldn't watch it if Tauriel wasn't there.

    My main problem with Tauriel is, as Mom and Melody have so often pointed out, the Tauriel/Kili love line. Kili is my favorite and I don't like that line. Period.

    And as for Legolas. I know a lot of people very much dislike that they added him, but I don't. Yes Tolkien created Legolas after he wrote the Hobbit, but Legolas was alive at that time and he was THE SON OF THE KING for goodness sake! So he would have been involved!! Plus I love how Jackson tied in his close friendship with Aragorn.

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    1. It's okay that we disagree--everyone has their own opinions of the movies and I respect that.

      Oh I don't mind that Kili has dark hair--I don't even remember in The Hobbit book it explicitly stating what color hair he has. Surely the actor looks better in his natural hair color; I'm not contesting that! I was only pointing out in the article that his armor (which is almost all black) does not really match the book's description of a jolly blue hood, that's all. I confess it has been a month or two since I last saw the Hobbit movies, but I remember the first time I saw it his seriousness did catch me a bit off guard. But if it didn't bother you throughout the film, that's fantastic!

      Yes, it does seem rather unlikely, doesn't it? I remember early on in the filming of The Two Towers the film makers considered having Arwen join Aragorn in a fight at Helm's Deep, but they decided against it, saying, "Arwen could be strong without a sword in her hand." I think that Tauriel is only strong battle-wise (unlikely anyway for someone in the medieval times which the stories were closely based off of) but she really has no emotional or moral strength--the opposite of Arwen. This makes it seem like the only way for anyone to be strong is to be the Captain of the Guard or otherwise powerful in battle which is simply not the case. I didn't want to get into that in the article, but since you bring up the improbability, that's what I think.

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    2. I think that Legolas was an okay addition (certainly not canon, but it theoretically could have happened) however he was way different from the original LOTR Legolas which threw me off. I am almost thankful he was back because I feel the movies would have been rather dry without him (though it seems counter-intuitive for me since all he really adds to is the love triangle--which I obviously dislike--and the excess of action--I'm not really an action fan either). I think a male elf interacting with Legolas may have been better, although it is possible to eschew the entire idea and just follow Bilbo and Co. instead, just saying. It never even occurred to me that the relationship would be platonic--all the wistful glances, jealous attitude and fleeting looks made me instantly think "romance"--but I think you're right about the producers pushing it to be romantic.

      Wow, that is really a shame. I guess this goes back to my theory that the movies are catering to the wrong audience; the type of people who don't want what Tolkien has to offer, but some other story with a sappy love triangle and lots of gore.

      The love triangle itself aside from the relative merits of the characters is just poorly fleshed out, period. They meet, fall instantly in love, and then later one of them dies. There was barely any character development and it seemed completely unrealistic. And it bothers me to no end that Kili died not for his uncle Thorin but for some Elf-girl he had just met. The special familial relationship between the Dwarves but especially between Fili and Kili as Thorin's nephews was something I really loved about the book and it was completely squished in the film.

      I say tentatively that I am alright with Legolas being in the movies, like I said before. At least they didn't bring someone back who would be completely inexplicable. However, the reasons they brought him back don't really contribute to the part of the story I personally like and I feel like he was just there because young girls like to watch him shoot stuff and flip his hair majestically. That's just my personal opinion and I see why some people would like having him back.

      I have to admit that that last scene with Thranduil telling Legolas to go find Aragorn does make me roll my eyes a bit...I don't mean to ruin one of your favorite parts at all, but it is just a scene that I personally dislike. Logistically it doesn't make much sense for Thranduil to tell Legolas to go meet Aragorn since at that time Aragorn would be around 12 years old. I get that he's going to be the future king of Gondor and Legolas is also royalty so they should get along, but it just seems like that scene is trying to get any drop of nostalgia it can from the original movies squeezed out. That's my personal opinion, but I suppose the link-in could be kind of cool depending on how you look at it.

      Thanks for commenting--it's interesting to read what your point of view is!

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  5. I absolutely agree. As I like to say, "Different strokes for different folks". Everyone should have their own opinion.....just so long as they don't try to shove it on to other people as fact, or insist that other people HAVE to believe as well.

    See I personally don't understand how anyone can get a "serious" vibe from Movie Kili. Like even in his more "serious" moments i.e. fighting, being mad, I would call it more passionate anger and determination then seriousness.

    I am so glad they didn't have Arwen at Helms Deep!! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Arwen.....just not at Helms Deep!!

    Well apparently, after he wrote the trilogy, Tolkien was re-writing the Hobbit and including Legolas. He just died before he finished.

    Yeah, both Peter Jackson and Evangeline Lily told in interviews how Peter didn't want to make the relationship romantic but the producers insisted that he make it so. But then he (and the brilliant actors) portrayed the relationship in such a way that (if you want to) Legolas's feelings for Tauriel can TOTALLY be taken as brotherly concern and love. Completely platonic. And that is what shows the brilliance of Peter Jackson and his team.

    Yes, I agree that it was a little early for someone, even someone with incredible forsight (which Thranduil would have had) to know that Aragorn (who was 10) would be known in the wild as Strider. But I think knowing that Legolas spent time with the Rangers more fully explains the close relationship between Aragorn and Legolas ("This is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your allegiance.") in the LOTR trilogy.

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    1. I didn't know about that rewrite--interesting since he already had rewritten The Hobbit after The Lord of the Rings. I'd like to read more--do you remember where you heard that?

      I can see how a producing company could pressure Peter Jackson into doing things he didn't want to do, so I guess some of my concern should be directed at the studio, but they are concerns nonetheless ;)

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  6. I think I heard it from my sister Melody and there is no telling where she heard it!!

    Yep!! That's what I said too! Also, remember that they had another screen writer for the Hobbit.....one that they didn't have for LOTR. Guillermo del Toro. And from what I know of some of his other work, I wonder how much of the changes were his.

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    1. Alrighty maybe I'll come across it at some point, who knows?

      True...it must have been hard for PJ and Co. to assume control when del Toro suddenly dropped out.

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  7. Nice post, I see what you mean on a lot of it. I liked AUJ but it felt like there was too much "other stuff" in the other two, and more darkness than felt right. Although I'm not totally against adding a female character, I was kind of disappointed she was mostly there to be a romantic interest.

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    1. Perfectly said! The last two were definitely darker than AUJ and the book for that matter. True, Tauriel really only served one purpose which is kind of disappointing. Well said!

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